Kennedy Krieger Room to Grow Conference

October 15, 2021

On September 14, the Office for Health, Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity at Kennedy Krieger Institute hosted the 11th annual Room to Grow: Journey to Cultural and Linguistic Competency Conference. The event was co-sponsored by the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities at Kennedy Krieger; the Institute's Maternal and Child Health Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Other Related Disabilities (LEND) program; and the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The theme of this year's conference was "Truth and Reconciliation." Morning keynote speakers were Martha Jones, JD, PhD, Society of Black Alumni presidential professor at The Johns Hopkins University, whose lecture was titled "Learning About Johns Hopkins: Slaveholder and Abolitionist?"; Arrianna Marie Planey, MA, PhD, assistant professor for the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Global Public Health, who spoke on "Bridging the Divide: Access Barriers Faced by Patients With Communication Disorders and How Clinicians Can Address Them"; and Renee Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD, associate professor of pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine and founding director of Vital Village, who discussed the "Vital Village Community Engagement Network: Promoting Resiliency, Health and Community." The afternoon included a panel presentation with Lydia X.Z. Brown, Esq.; Nassira Nicola, MA; and Elaina Ramos, MD, on ableism, and an anti-bias workshop led by Dr. William T.L. Cox of the University of Wisconsin.

Almost 300 people attended the conference, including students (29%), LEND trainees (21%), clinicians (19%), faculty members (10%), and community members (21%). Participants engaged in interactive presentations and discussions on several challenging topics, including the history of slavery, systemic racism and traumatic stress within diverse communities, self-advocates' perceptions of ableism, improving health outcomes for patients with communication disorders, and implementing evidence-based tools to reduce bias.

As we walk away from this conference, we must consider applying daily the tools we learned to implement a more culturally competent, inclusive, and responsive approach to healthcare and further our steps on the journey to cultural and linguistic competency. As part of that journey, save the date for next year's Room to Grow conference on September 20, 2022.